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Novice simple MIDI questions


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So I'm a novice to MIDI (a lot), and actually am having trouble getting basic MIDI instruction; I've searched multiple areas and bear with me. All I want to do is connect my HS SK1 (has MIDI In & Out) to my laptop (Surface Pro) to play during my Skype keyboard lessons. I know I will need a MIDI interface (thinking of Roland Um-ONE mk 2). I'm assuming that I will need something on my computer to generate the music. I'm not going to record or edit, so I don't think I need to go the DAW route, but I'm not sure a DAW would even be appropriate. But I don't have a clue. Any suggestions or hints? The simpler the better for my simple mind. Thanks much in advance
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Let me see if I understand correctly: you want to play a midi file on your computer and have it make sounds from your SK1: is that correct?


You will need: a midi file, a computer, a computer program that can read a midi file, a cable to connect the computer to the SK1, and the SK1.


There are a number of computer programs that can read midi files: search Google for "midi player" or "free midi player".

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Yeah, a simple MIDI-to-USB interface should do the trick.


You don't need a DAW. You could get a free software instrument "plugin" to start (Kontakt Free Player comes to mind), and if you want a decent free piano specifically, I'm sure folks can chime in with their recommendations. Ideally you'll get something that runs "standalone" (does not require a DAW). Otherwise, there is free "host" software that can host a plugin.


FYI there are free DAWs as well (Tracktion 7 and Cakewalk for example) if you decide you need something more than a simple host, or if the standalone software falls short in some way.


From there, in the software's audio/MIDI configuration, you'll chose the MIDI interface. Assuming you've set your SK1 to transmit MIDI properly, the software will see incoming MIDI.


Audio configuration is another story. When playing, you should hear the software instrument output to your Surface's speakers, potentially with a noticeable delay after pressing a key. You'll need to adjust the "sample buffer" or "latency" to a number where the delay is reduced but the audio doesn't break up (crackles, drops out). The built-in Windows audio may or may not allow for acceptable latency with your Surface Pro. In that case, there's another piece of software -- ASIO4ALL -- which should communicate more effectively with your Surface Pro's audio hardware. Once installed, you'd select ASIO4ALL as your driver/output device, and see if that helps with latency.



I make software noises.
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When I was first learning about MIDI, I found a program called SynthFont that I thought was a DAW because it has a piano roll editor. It isn't a DAW, but it is a MIDI sequencer, MIDI editor, virtual instrument host, and sample player.


It's pretty easy to use, so you might want to check it out:




Version 1 is "nagware" that will ask you to make a donation by purchasing a license, but it will continue to work for free even if you don't purchase a license. Version 2 will not work unless you purchase a license.


With SynthFont you can open a MIDI file, make changes to it if you wish using either the piano roll editor or MIDI event list editor, assign each track of the MIDI file to a particular MIDI Out port and channel or to a virtual instrument or soundfont, and play back (or "sequence") the MIDI data to your connected keyboard or installed virtual instruments and soundfonts.


You can also use its built-in virtual keyboard or your external keyboard to control and play virtual instruments or soundfonts.


It's not complicated to use, and its graphical interface-- which could be called "dated" in that it might remind you of the old days when Windows 95 was king-- seemed a lot less frightening to me than, say, Ableton Live's did.

Michael Rideout
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